Saawariya (Blu-ray)

January 28, 2012 9 Min Read

Review by: Daniel Pulliam

Plot: What’s it about?

“Saawariya” isn’t so much a movie as it is a 138-minute crash course in how to overcome cynicism. This is a Bollywood love story / musical set in a fairy-tale world. This should tell virtually anyone all they need to know about what this film is “about”. If you’re still reading after seeing that description, then you’re probably going to love this movie, and nothing about the plot specifics is going to change that one bit. The one thing that I wasn’t expecting was the overriding theme of good will that just seeps out of this film’s every frame. It’s almost a movie I feel “compelled” to like just to prove that I’m not a hard-hearted person. I’m not exactly sure if this is my kind of film necessarily, but it comes across sort of like that friend that’s so nice that you can’t hold anything against them, but part of you just wants to punch them really hard just to see how they’d look if they got angry. That’s this movie in a nutshell. It’s sugary-sweet and in love with itself in virtually every way, and yet it somehow manages to pull this off without seeming too terribly self-ware or condescending toward the audience.

The main draw of this film for most people is going to be its absolutely lavish set and costume design. This is one amazing-looking journey from start to finish, with the vast majority of the film awash in virtually every cool color of the rainbow, with a few reds thrown in for good measure. When scenes change, so does the film’s palette, making for a positively eye-popping visual experience nearly all of its somewhat lengthy running time. Director Sanjay Leela Bhansali has a definite eye for creating dense, populated spaces within frame and using practically every inch of the screen to tell his story. From small details like rain to the lights eminating from windows across cobblestone streets, this is a sumptuous treat for the eyes and ears. Now, some of the songs do come off as a bit on the cheesy side, but then again, this is a movie that dares you to be cold enough to see it for what it is, and it’s surpringly hard even as a film critic to take anything too seriously in the end. For my money, it’s the whimsical tone that actually helps the film go down a bit easier than it otherwise might.

I surprised myself by enjoying “Saawariya” quite a bit. It’s not a film I’ll be watching with much regularity, but it’s pretty much a visual and aural knockout, and it’s hard to just dismiss a movie like that these days. What’s more, this one’s got a lot of heart, and it’s quite apparent right from the very beginning, with the director throwing out his thank you’s before the film even gets going. Add to this the positively glowing portrayals by the two leads, Ranbir and Sonam Kapoor, and you’ve got a picture with a lot going for it. Ranbir Kapoor in particular really seems to be having the time of his life playing his character, and that attitude gels immensely well with the film’s overall tone of kindness and compassion. Again, this isn’t a film for everyone (and you’ll almost certainly be required to leave any and all cynicism at the door if you plan on enjoying more than about five minutes of this), but if you can open your heart to what it has to offer, you’ll likely warm up to it without realizing you’re doing it. It’s that kind of film. It sneaks up on your sensibilities and plucks at your heartstrings just long enough to make you forget that you’re watching something so unabashedly corny and over the top. But then, when film can make us forget things like that, it usually means we’re having a good time. I had a pretty good time with “Saawariya”, and chances are you will, too.

Video: How does it look?

“Saawariya” comes to Blu-ray in an eye-catching AVC transfer that leaves very little room for improvement. Astounding small object detail, intense color saturation, and deep, pitch-perfect black levels compliment this exquisite presentation from Sony. If I had to find anything wrong with this one, I did notice one instance of blocking right in the opening effects shot of the film. It wasn’t there for very long and, to be fair, I was about an inch away from my screen or I doubt I’d have ever noticed it. Also, I found the ultra high-contrast look of the film just didn’t set well with me as far as my personal taste. I generally find the thin veil of film grain that should be there difficult to discern from noise with cinematic styles that intentionally push colors and bloom the high spectrum in this way, making the true “quality” of the presentation something of a subjective matter. But again, this is a stylistic choice and I can’t find enough wrong with this image to deduct even half a star from the score. Subtitles are available in English, English SDH, French, Spanish (Latin American), Spanish (Castilian), Portuguese (Brazilian), Chinesh, Czech, Korean, Thai, Arabic, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Greek, Hindi, German, Turkish, Icelandic, Norwegian, Swedish, Bulgarian, and Portuguese (Classic). Um…wow.

Audio: How does it sound?

The Dolby TrueHD track included on this disc is nothing short of a sonic marvel. More than once I caught myself mistaking onscreen effects for real-world sounds, so transparent is the soundstage. Bass is deep and full when called for, and some of the musical numbers will actually give your subwoofer a decent workout. The mix might actually be a bit “too” aggressive for some tastes, but I found that the fantastical nature of the film lent well to a soundtrack that bordered on the ethereal, so I was quite pleased with what was presented here. Dialogue comes through crisp and clean with no distortion or peaking issues. The biggest compliment I can pay this track is that it is a wholly and successfully immersive experience, just as it should be. Excellent. A Dolby Digital 5.1 Descriptive Audio track is also available.

Supplements: What are the extras?

The only extras Sony has included with “Saawariya” are a featurette on the film’s music and some footage of the movie’s premiere. It’s a shame as this definitely seems like a “Special Edition” type of film that could have a wealth of supplements about virtually every aspect of the production. Maybe down the road we’ll get something more substantial, but for now, what is here is a bit disappointing. Still, this absolutely stellar presentation of the film itself should make fans happy until then.

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